Jess & Julie Stryker's vacation at
Mount Rushmore National Memorial & The Black Hills
South Dakota, USA
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota
from left; Presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, & Lincoln
These photos were taken July 23-24, 2006 on our visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Click on a photo below to see the full size version. All photos & video by Jess Stryker unless noted.
Driving to South Dakota
This photo was taken at a park at the site of the former Homestake Mine, in the town of Lead, South Dakota. The park gives a self-guided interpretive history of the mine, along with lots of old mine equipment to check out. Julie's in the driver's seat of a loader. This park is a very good example of adaptive reuse of a property and good park design. Lots of parking, rest rooms, good clear signage, and a logical order of progression through the interpretive exhibits.
Julie demonstrates the use of a rock hammer drill.
Fire in a mine can be a real disaster, so a well trained fire fighting crew is needed.
After goofing around at the mine, we continued on to the town of Keystone, where we stayed the night. Mount Rushmore is just outside of the town of Keystone.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
We arrived at Mount Rushmore after dark, but in time for the nightly lighting ceremony. The amphitheater was full, but we were able to get a spot on the Grand View Terrace to view the lights slowly turning on and lighting the memorial.
Not sure if this is intentional, but local hero Theodore Roosevelt, in the center, lights up first! Note how much brighter he is in this photo and the first photo.
The candle-power of these lights is unbelievable. The lights are not that close to the mountain, in fact they are hidden in the trees directly adjacent to where this photo was taken. (See photo of lights below.) The Park Service must have a monster power bill!
A bit washed out from the camera flash, but here we are at the memorial. Notice the moon to the left of the memorial!
After the lighting ceremony we returned to our motel, the
Best Western Four Presidents Lodge
in nearby Keystone, S.D.. We were happy with the accommodations, so we can recommend this hotel if you will be staying locally. Keystone is the closest town to Mount Rushmore. The next day we returned to take a more leisurely look around the memorial.
Julie outside the memorial entrance. This is the view as you approach from the 3 level parking garages. (There is a parking fee to pay for the garages.)
Looking through the entry gateway.
Jess just inside of the memorial entrance. I'm really happier than I look! (Photo by Julie.)
Just beyond the gateway you pass through a couple of visitor facilities areas (gift shops, rest rooms, and food services). Then you walk toward the memorial down The Avenue of Flags, shown in this photo. Julie is on the right walking toward me.
OK, I have to take a break for a moment for a little professional criticism. I have a big problem with the design of this facility. The Avenue of Flags is too narrow for the number of people using it, as you must pass through it on both the way to, and way back from, the Memorial viewing areas. Don't be fooled by the photo, I waited a long time to get a break in the traffic so I could get a shot that wasn't solid people. This is an example of bad design, the park service landscape architects normally do much better than this. The foot traffic returning from the Memorial should have been directed onto a separate path around the Avenue of Flags. Hopefully this will be corrected sometime soon. The crowds really ruin the effect and it wouldn't be that hard or expensive to solve the problem.
The Avenue of Flags ends at the Grand View Terrace. The Terrace is on the roof of the Lincoln Borglum Museum. This is the view of the Memorial from the Terrace.
Jess and Julie on the Grand View Terrace. (This photo was taken by another visitor. If you've ever volunteered to take someone's picture for them, then here's your photo credit. Thanks from all of us you helped!)
View near the start of the Presidential Trail. The trail loops from the Terrace up along the base of the mountain under the Sculpture for a closer view. The trail is a combination of pavement and elevated cat-walks. Very nice design.
Closer view from the Presidential Trail.
Looking up Washington's nose through a crack in the rocks below.
Close up view. Check out how the sculpture created the illusion of glasses on Roosevelt's face.
Looking away from the sculpture/mountain, back toward the amphitheater. The building at the rear of the amphitheater is the Lincoln Borglum Museum. The Grand View Terrace is the area on the roof of the museum where you can see people standing. The Avenue of Flags is on the far side of the museum, mostly out of view (you can see the flags if you click on the photo for the full size photo and look close).
The faces through the trees.
This is the scaled down mock up of the sculpture the artist used to show what he intended to create. Note that the artist's original proposal was for a full bust of the presidents rather than just the faces.
The hammer drill on the left was one of those used to drill holes for explosives to blow away the rock and create a rough outline of the sculptures. Jack hammers and polishers were used for more detailed finishing work. A large wood platform was built on top of the mountain and the workers were lowered to their work stations on cables. The winch on the right was used to lower and raise workers down to the sculpture. A long wood stairway was built up the mountain for the workers to climb to the top. Tools, equipment and workers were also taken to the top of the mountain on a temporary aerial tramway.
One of the bosun chairs the worker sat on as he drilled or carved the rock.
A bust of Gutzon Borglum, the sculpture. This bust was made by his son Lincoln Borglum.
These are a few of the flood lights used to light the mountain at night.
This is the glue that holds the sculpture together. Well, not exactly, but close. Like most granite, the granite the sculpture is carved in has cracks in it. If water was allowed to get into the cracks it would freeze in the winter and the expanding ice would break apart the sculpture. So the cracks are sealed using foam backing rods and Dow-Corning #790 silicone caulk.
The Black Hills
A cool-looking bridge at the intersection of state route 16 and 16A.
Iron Mountain Road
Iron Mountain Road is a scenic roadway located just east of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The road is famous for it's views, horseshoe curves, and the two places it makes 360 degree turns- where the road completely circles around and passes over itself as it climbs the side of the mountain! The other feature of the road are two narrow one-lane tunnels on the north side of Iron Mountain that are aligned with views of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. One tunnel is aligned to give a view of Mt. Rushmore for the uphill traffic, the other is aligned for the downhill traffic. A third tunnel is on the far side of the mountain. There are also good views from the Norbeck Overlook at the top of the mountain. The road is definitely worth the time. The Iron Mountain Road ends at Custer State Park and there is a use fee if you continue into the park. For the best views you need to go over the road one direction and then turn around and return. There are different views of Mount Rushmore in each direction.
Distant view of Mt. Rushmore taken from the Iron Mountain Road.
Tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. The road is wet in this photo because a thunderstorm came through while we were on the mountain. This photo and the next one are taken from the video below.
Exiting the tunnel above. Note Mt. Rushmore in the distance is framed by the tunnel.
Video- For a video we took while driving part of Iron Mountain Road, click here. The video starts with a drive through the tunnel in the photos above, then continues to a horseshoe curve, then back over two bridges, known as the "Pigtail Bridges", into a 360 degree over/under loop. On the loop you pass over a bridge then curve sharply to the left making a complete circle where you pass under the bridge you just drove over. It had been raining, but there was a brief break in the rain so Julie held the camera up through the sunroof of our rental car and shot this video as I drove back down the road. Watch for Mt. Rushmore in the distance as you exit the tunnel. If you look to the right at the start of the loop bridge you can see the road below going under the bridge. The video is 2.5 minutes long and will take a long time to load if you have a dial-up Internet connection.
For an aerial view of the section of Iron Mountain Road in the video, click here. When you look at the aerial view the tunnel is at the lower right of the view, the horseshoe curve is at the lower left, and the loop is at the upper right. The road is rather difficult to see through all the trees, but if you look closely you can see it.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park is located south of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. We drove over Iron Mountain Road into the park, then looped through the park on the Peter Norbeck Memorial Scenic Byway to Highway 97, The Needles Highway Scenic Drive. The drive is worth the State Park entrance fee.
Custer State Park is known for the wild burros that beg for treats from passing cars.
The State Game Lodge, a historic hotel in Custer State Park, South Dakota. If I had realized it was here when I was booking the trip I would have tried to get a room, since I love these old historic hotels. The staff was very gracious and allowed us to look around the hotel, even though we weren't guests. The State Game Lodge was designed by the same man who designed the Pigtail Bridges on Iron Mountain Road. For more on the State Game Lodge, click here.
The historic Peter Norbeck Visitor Center in Custer State Park South Dakota.
The Needles Highway (state route 87) winds through some very spectacular rock outcrops in Custer State Park. Note, a state park fee is charged to drive on this road (this road alone is worth the fee.)
More rock formations at The Needles.
More rock formations at The Needles.
The Needles Eye.
More rock formations at The Needles.
Car approaching through the Needles Eye Tunnel.
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Thank you for viewing our trip photos and video. We hope you enjoyed them and they help motivate you to get out and enjoy the beauty of God's creation!
Jess & Julie
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Text and Images by Jess Stryker. Copyright © Jess Stryker, 2006. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for student use of photos for non-profit school/class projects.